Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hypocritically misleading

I suppose it was inevitable that someone in the Guardian would use the horrible Sandy Hook school massacre as a device to attack American foreign policy. Step forward George Monbiot.

The accusation is one of hypocrisy; that Obama reacts with grief and horror at the Connecticut murders, but not at the death of children in drone strikes in Pakistan. The trouble with hypocrisy is that it shows up inconsistency, but doesn't tell us much about the virtues or otherwise of the incidents themselves.

Monbiot admits that there is a difference in that American drones are not deliberately targeting children, although he calls the deaths "Obama's murders" as if they were, but he is right to say that the death of innocents is an almost certain consequence of the attacks. The problem is that he doesn't trouble himself too much with who the Americans are targeting, the various Pakistani Taliban groups. And they too kill children, not as an act of individual derangement, nor, to use that disgusting phrase, as 'collateral damage', but as a deliberate policy.

The attempted murder of MalalaYousafzai for the crime of campaigning for education for girls is the most celebrated example at the moment, but a quick Google search reveals a horrendous list. Here are a few headlines: Taliban kill six children in Dera; Pakistan school bus attack kills teacher and three children; The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Saturday for a blast that killed seven people, including three children, during a Shiite religious processionA Taliban suicide bomber has struck a Shia Muslim procession near Pakistan's capital, killing 23 people ...; At least 62 people were wounded by the blast, including six police officers. Eight of the dead and wounded were children...; and as if that isn't enough children are trained as suicide bombers in a callous act of child abuse - Pakistani Taliban's indoctrinated child bombers.

This isn't a case of 'yes buttery' but a plea to see the event as a whole. American actions are actually aimed at killing child killers, yet in doing so they can miss their targets and kill children themselves. This is a real conflict with real consequences and real dilemmas. Monbiot's cheap emoting, "The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears," gets us nowhere, after all everyone mourns their own more deeply even if they are horror-struck by the deaths of others. No, the real debate is how to protect the children of Pakistan; how to prevent the murder of Shia and of children who demand education. And maybe drones are not the way, maybe the risks are too high. There has been a long strategic debate over the effectiveness of air warfare. But it has also to be admitted that the Taliban are not models of child protection and maybe there are no good options, only ones that aren't as bad as others. The very worst outcome would be a Taliban victory. To dress a conflict in the cloak of the moral certainty of the wickedness of one's own side whilst turning a blind eye to the crimes of our opponents does no good at all - not least for the children of Pakistan.


Anton Deque said...

I am weary of the Guardian. I believe there was a series of spoof publications entitled "Not etc." and read that an attempt to a do a "Not the Daily Star" failed miserably to match the original. I think now I am seeing this with the Guardian. It is not as if this is part of normal journalism where any publication will, from time to time, venture obtuse or even objectionale arguments the more in order to contrast the usual reign of good sense. This example of causitry from the Guardian is now it seems the staple fare.

Thanks for 2012 Peter and have a good rest.

George S said...

I am tempted to say that Monbiot is a flusted bush, but it is too near Christmas for that.

And by the way, Peter, your characters to-be-identified to show I am not a robot are so blurry and messy this is my fifth attempt at reading.

The Plump said...

Sadly I have no control over the characters to be entered, Blogger sets them. As spammers get more adept so the security words have to become ever more difficult to read. There will come a point when they will be illegible to humans and only the robots will be able to decipher them. At this point we will be doomed.

levi9909 said...

I should have thought that the violent death of any child is as tragic as the violent death of any other child regardless of the motive of the killers. In fact even when children are killed in pure accidents, like in cars or on the roads, it is as tragic as a child killed by either the deliberateness of the Taliban or as "collateral damage" by the Americans.

Of course, the different motives are worth noting but do we really know the Americans' motives? Have they always had the noble motives assumed in this post? Were they as noble in Iraq as they now are in Pakistan? Were they as noble in Vietnam and the twenty or so other countries invaded or bombed by the US since the end of WWII? What actually is their motive? Sometimes they say they are helping Pakistan, other times they say they are securing themselves. Neither claim seems to stand up to scrutiny.

There is something else to consider about Obama's differential approach to the killing of children of different nationalities and in different parts of the world. Obama appeared to wipe away tears over the killing of American children. But "predator drones" was the punchline of one his jokes in a speech. Surely you can admit that the latter was both inappropriate and inconsistent with the former.

The fact is that as telegenic as Obama is, he can be remarkably, offensively, gauche on the back foot. Remember when he described his bowling abilities as worthy of the paralympics?

The man is a berk and I'm not sure you've correctly assessed his motive for killing lots of innocent people. Even if you're right though, he might shed some tears for all children violently killed rather than just "his own".